Prague, the Czech capital, has been a major center of Central European culture for 11 centuries, reaching its peak during the 14th century when Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, transformed the medieval city into his imperial capital, erecting landmarks like the statue-flanked Charles Bridge and enlarging the already massive Prague Castle, the world’s largest. During the 20th century, Prague was at the forefront of history, surviving the World Wars, the Soviet Bloc and the Cold War to emerge from the 1989 Velvet Revolution as one of Europe’s most beautiful and cosmopolitan cities. Today it has a buoyant, youthful spirit that’s in perfect contrast the city’s rich history.
Art, culture, and history have always been a source of pride in this ancient Czech Republic city, which at one time was the center of Bohemia. A great walking city, Prague has been architecturally prominent for centuries and is considered to have a quintessential "classic European" look. Old Town is its center, so start at Old Town Square and walk across the most famous landmark, the Charles Bridge. Make sure to get the timing right, so you can be in the square to see the Prague Astronomical Clock at City Hall do its famous hourly movements. Prague Castle is magnificent, and the Jewish Quarter is not to be missed. If you need to get souvenirs, remember, Prague has always been famous for its beautiful Bohemian glass and crystal.
Since the early 19th century, Prague has been the "City of a Hundred Spires." Five hundred is more like it, however, were one to count each church tower and castle turret. The city's "Bohemian Baroque" architecture remains remarkably intact, dominated by 1,000-year-old Prague Castle overlooking the Vltava River.
Situated in Bohemia near Europe's geographic center, Prague has endured repeated sackings, revolts, liberations and occupations throughout its history. This century alone, it was subject to Austro-Hungarian, Nazi and Communist rule. Prague's 1,215,000 citizens helped orchestrate the Velvet Revolution of 1989, and their city is now the capital of the democratic Czech Republic -- since the 1993 split with Slovakia.
Prague is one of Europe's great cultural centers. Charles University has educated students since 1348, and the city has been home for the likes of Rilke, Kafka, Kundera and playwright turned president V clav Havel. Nowadays, an English expatriate literary culture thrives here, along with orchestras, theatre and some of the best street musicians anywhere.
Modern Prague industries include machine making, telecommunications and beer brewing. Yet, its old world beauty evident, say, on a walk across 600-year-old Charles Bridge makes Prague a truly enchanting European capital.